New nature laws update

A new EPA, delayed reforms and broken promises

The Albanese government came into power with a promise to end the extinction crisis and fix Australia’s broken nature laws. 

Instead of delivering a full package of new laws this year, our federal government recently announced it will take baby steps, delaying urgent reforms in favour of a fragmented, piece by piece approach. 

What was in the announcement?

The government announced it will introduce a new federal regulator, Environment Protection Australia, alongside a centralised information and monitoring database, Environment Information Australia. It has said it still intends to deliver the full reform agenda, but this will be delayed – with no date set for its delivery. 

This means we could be faced with an indefinite wait for new laws to address Australia’s shocking extinction crisis. It means legislation limbo for the laws we so urgently need to reign in rampant logging and land clearing, to ensure climate change is properly factored into decision making, and to strengthen protections for animals on the path to extinction. 

What does this mean for Australia's environment?

We are in an extinction crisis. Australia is a deforestation hotspot. Logging and land clearing are destroying forests, woodlands and savannahs across the continent – yet are not even assessed under our current environment laws.

Our climate is breaking down, yet Australia’s Environment Minister does not think it’s her job to properly assess the climate harm or cumulative impact of new coal or gas projects.  

John Howard introduced our current nature laws a quarter of a century ago. Since then, the state of Australia’s environment has plummeted. Under this broken system:    

  • Successive governments have approved 740 coal and gas projects, despite their harm to our environment and climate.   
  • Australia has one of the worst extinction rates on Earth. Rampant habitat destruction means even koalas are at risk of extinction.  
  • Australia has become a global deforestation hotspot alongside Brazil and Borneo.    

For several years now, the Albanese government has talked big on ending the extinction crisis and fixing these broken laws.   

The places, animals, people and plants we love cannot wait any longer for action. 

What happens now?

It’s expected that legislation for the new EPA and EIA will be introduced to Parliament in the coming weeks.  

We have concerns the new EPA will lack accountability and won't deliver the trust and integrity that the government has promised. As it stands, the government’s plan for the EPA is one king decision maker at the top, appointed on the advice of the Minister and answerable to no one. 

It’s critical the new EPA is as strong as possible, and set up in a way that properly protects its integrity and independence. The EPA boss must be accountable to an independent board of qualified members, to safeguard this critical new agency from the influence of powerful vested interests and their lobbyists who have undermined good environmental governance in this country for too long. The EPA also needs strong legislated duties and purposes to direct its work, and deliver the frank and fearless regulator that nature needs. 

We are also working with experts and campaign partners to try to ensure the Bill introduced to amend the EPBC Act at this stage of the reforms urgently addresses some of the most glaring problems – including curbing rampant deforestation, by ending the exemption for native forest logging and ensuring land clearing is referred for assessment, protecting critical wildlife habitat, and properly scrutinising climate risks. 

A strong regulator enforcing good laws, is key to halting the destruction, reversing the decline, and bringing nature back.    

We will continue to advocate for Australia’s new nature laws to be delivered in full. We’re assessing where to go from here – stay tuned for how you can get involved.